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Monday, October 17, 2016

Who's the Greatest? (Matthew 18:1)

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

We are a competitive bunch. We compete with others in all kinds of ways, especially in the areas of accomplishments and accumulations. One-up-manship. Often we brag on our children for the simple reason that they make us look good. Why? We are concerned with our image. Seeking personal greatness then, is idolatrous: we are creating an image to be admired and adored. Often we are not even aware that we are doing so.

You can't follow Jesus Christ and pursue personal greatness. And, you can't use following Him to obtain personal greatness. Think about the oddness of the disciple's argument and question "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

Generally greatness is determined by closeness to esteemed leaders. So, who's the closest is also the greatest. A heated discussion ensues.

What prompts the disciple's question? Jesus is at the height of His popularity among the people. And, three of the disciples have just returned from an incredible mountain top experience with Jesus that also included Moses and Elijah. Associating closely to Jesus then, is "heady stuff." Who then, is the greatest disciple? To ask that question is to confront selfish ambition. Selfishly ambitious people compete with others to obtain personal greatness , often at the expense of others.

Jesus measures greatness by service, humility, and the treatment of children. Great people don't typically take time to speak to children or the down trodden. They, like the Levites in Luke 10:25-37, cross over to the other side of the road to avoid those in need--because they are great men.

Real leaders and true greatness are measured by how people treat those "beneath" them, not by the initials or titles following their names. Great leaders don't establish a "pecking order" kept by a carefully maintained rank and seniority awareness; instead, they spend their lives making others successful.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading
Mark 9:2-13; Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 9:28-36

  • Why does Jesus take the three disciples up on the mountain?
  • How does Peter respond to the transfiguration event? What does this tell you about Peter's understanding of things?
  • What does God do that strikes fear into the disciples' hearts?
  • How does Jesus explain the mountain top event?
Mark 9:14-32; Matthew 17:14-23; Luke 9:37-45
  • How does this demonic manifestation differ from those we've read about in the Oct. 10th and 11th readings?
  • Why were the disciples unable to deliver the boy from demons?
  • What authority had God given His disciples in Mark 6:7?
  • Describe the father's response to Jesus.
  • Why does Jesus seek time alone with His disciples? What do they understand about Jesus' mission?
Mark 9:33-37; Matthew 18:1-5; Luke 9:46-48
  • How does Jesus' definition of greatness differ from that of the world's?
  • How does Jesus confront the disciple's argument over greatness?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to alert you to where you seek personal greatness in conversations and actions.